memories

On crying in a bathtub on my wedding day

No, trusting blogosphere, my headline was not intended as a hyperbolic ploy to lure you in and win your readership (though I can’t say the thought didn’t cross my mind…)  It’s true.  I did in fact cry.  In a bathtub.  On my wedding day.  Now I’m sure you’re cringing as images of Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride come to mind, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  No need to flood my inbox with referrals for your best friend’s cousin’s hairdresser’s marriage counselor.  And please no phone calls to my mother about your concern for her daughter’s well being.  Let me explain.

You see, this weekend I had the privilege of attending the nuptials of one of my dear, dear friends.  And, make no mistake, it was beautiful.  An exquisite, magical and overwhelmingly joyous occasion for all.  As I watched the happy couple dance the night away, gazing lovingly into one another’s eyes with that familiar “newlywed glow,” I couldn’t help but reminisce about my own wedding day.

I remember waking up in my hotel room, my sister curled up next to me in our comfy king sized bed and my bridesmaids sleeping quietly nearby.  We’d been very fortunate at check-in the day before as the front desk staff, upon discovering that the honeymoon suite was unoccupied for the night, graciously upgraded us at no extra charge.  I felt like royalty awaking to a spectacular view of the Charleston Harbor, the historic peninsula not far off in the distance.  The plans had been finalized to the very last detail.  The ceremony had been rehearsed.  There would be no more fittings or tastings or meltdowns over budget crises and last minute changes.  For the first time in months I awoke to a sense of calm.  This was it.  I could breathe.

So while the bridal party serenely indulged in a last half hour of sleep, I tiptoed into the larger-than-life bathroom and treated myself to a wedding day bubble bath.  My favorite Pandora station quietly serenading me, I rested my head on the edge of the tub, allowing the warm water to rise up to my chin.  Eyes closed, I took a series of deep breaths, and as I exhaled I felt my mind clearing, a weight lifting from my chest.  I allowed myself to be fully present in the moment – to soak up the significance of the day.

And as I banned all checklists, timelines, menus and floral arrangements from my thoughts, I found myself processing the very reason for my presence in this particular place at this particular time.  The reason for all the excitement and stress and planning (not to mention the obscene amount of money donated by my generous parents for “the cause”).  On this day, in a few short hours, I would stand in front of my soul mate, professing to him my eternal love and promising him the rest of my days, in front of God and everyone.

And that, oh blogosphere, as I lay chin-deep in fragrant bubbles, is when the tears came.  What began as a minor sniffle quickly escalated into uncontrollable sobbing.  In that moment I dismissed the strange episode as wedding jitters.  I simply needed to “get it all out” to avoid unleashing the flood during my walk down the aisle.  But looking back, I’m able to accept the tears for what they really were.

They were joy.  They were fear.  They were the nerves that often accompany the approach of a life-altering event.  They were the acceptance of an era’s end.  They were a step toward adulthood and responsibility, a step away from the safe arms of parental dependence.  They were an unwillingness to give up being “Daddy’s little girl.”  They were an irrational notion that this all may be a dream.  They were an image of my almost-husband standing at the front of the church, seeing me in my wedding dress for the very first time.  They were the simultaneous excitement and sheer terror of sharing a home with a messy stinky boy (Sorry, hubs).  They were thoughts of growing old together.  They were plans for puppies and hopes for children.  They were love.

(Cue affectionate sighs and sentimental music.)

So yes, blogosphere, I cried in a bathtub on my wedding day.  And, dare I say, it was the best cry I’ve ever had.

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For you, just in case.

I had a moment today.  One of those moments where a memory invades your mind with such abruptness and intensity that you’re forced to pause and allow it to run its course.  Patiently you must wait as the past has its way with you, however inconsiderate and unexpected its visit may be.  The past is not known for its manners.

This particular memory introduced itself kindly enough, greeting me with a familiar smile.  The type of impossibly happy grin one doesn’t soon forget.  Just a face and a smile, this memory, attached to tall brown body, lean and lanky with just enough muscle to reveal athleticism.  No definite time or place in this moment, just an image.

But as my moment continued, the image became muddled, its presence fading, thus evoking a surge of emotion long suppressed.  The smile vanished, replaced by a look of something resembling fear, and then nothing.  Blank.  Once lively and welcoming, now empty, hollow.

I’m revisited by this image from time to time.  Compelled to entertain it until it grows tired of me and moves on, its weight lingering uncomfortably, like a heavy wool blanket.  The image, as you may have guessed, is of a friend.  A friend whose life, though short, was abundant and purposeful, so vibrant and significant it remains permanently and subconsciously ingrained in my soul.

Long after these moments pass, I am left burdened by an overwhelming sense of loss.  There is no feeling of regret, no longing for answers or closure, just the sting of grief accompanied by the precipitous reminder of how swiftly the ones we love can be taken from us.

Which brings me to you.  On days when moments like this one catch me off guard and knock the breath out of me, I cannot help but imagine what it would feel like to wake up in a world where, suddenly, you were no longer with me.  I don’t wish to delve into the details of how utterly and horribly sad it would be – of course it would be sad.  It would be devastating.  That said, I think the worst of it would be the missed opportunity to tell you what you mean to me, how incredibly important your existence is in this mad and chaotic world.

So often I’m reminded that you’re not simply a thing that I have found, labeled, defined and claimed as my own – something neatly packaged and one dimensional.  You are not, in fact, a thing at all.  You are a person, a unique individual.  A being with a heart that beat and a soul that thrived long before I was even a blip on your radar.  Every day I take advantage of your unwavering presence in my life.  I forget to appreciate your passion.  Your generosity.  Your love for me and for life and for cooking and traveling and nature and music and so many things that I’m probably yet to discover.

I’m taking this moment to let you know that I’m thankful for the little things that you do for no other reason than to make me happy.  I’m thankful that you never leave the house or hang up the phone without telling me you love me.  I’m thankful that you take the time to share your interests and emotions with me.  I’m thankful for all the support and advice you give me and for the times when you know I just need someone to listen.  And I’m thankful that you’ll read this post and tell me its wonderful (even if we both know it’s a bit sappy).  I am so thankful for you.

And I wanted you to know.  Because, even if this post was brought about by the memory of a tragic event from the past, you are my present and my future.  You make the tragic memories and the nightmares and the doubt and the disappointment – and all the little things that contribute to life’s obstacles – okay.  You help me find purpose and hope and constantly encourage me to keep on pushing through.  You make me better.  And I’m telling you all this not out of the fear of uncertainty, but because you deserve to be recognized just for doing a really awesome job at being you.

So this is me saying thank you and plastering my love for you across the blogosphere because, you know what, it’s about time.